Fairy tales for the Yuletide season!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Norns


In the Fairy Tale One-Eye, Two-Eyes and Three-Eyes, the mysterious Wise Woman is probably a Norn (for complete text of fairy tale, see below). Norns are frequent characters in ancient Germanic mythology (Norn: Old Norse, "the whisperer" or "die Raunende"). They often provide help with childbirth and are associated with the Valkyries and Wise Women because of their overlapping functions. Originally there were many Norns but later tradition settled on the number three. They represented the three stages of time: What was, What is and What will be. Sleeping Beauty is the most well-known fairy tale featuring 13 Norns*.
(*The fairy tale refers to these 13 as wise women, but they are clearly Norns in that they appear at the birth of the child and award various blessings (and a curse).)

The NornsMany dangers threatened the Tree of Life. It probably would have been destroyed altogether were it not for the many beneficent powers laboring endlessly to preserve it.


First and foremost were the Three Norns. They were named Urd (The Past), Verdandi (The Present) and Skuld (The Future) and they lived at the Urd Fountain, a deep spring which flowed over the root of the Tree of Life and formed a lake around it. Beautiful, brilliant white swans swam on this lake. The Norns never ceased to dip their silver horns, which the gods themselves had given them, into the water of the spring to drench the roots of the Tree of Life so that it never withered.

The Gods revered the Norns. Every day the People of Asen came down from Asgard to receive words of wisdom from the sacred spring or to hold a court council. Often they approached the Norns for advice, for they were wise women and knew more about the future and the essence of all things than even the Gods themselves. But they were reticent and try as they may, the Gods did not receive any information from the Norns. They tended the Tree of Life and also did other work. They wove the threads of fate for all the world and humankind. That is why they were also called the Sisters of Fate.

Two of these women were kind and friendly but the third Norn had a hostile disposition. The first two awarded life and health but the third bestowed only death and destruction. At birth, all three stood round the infant in its cradle, dispensing to the sleeping child either fortune, health and blessings or murmured a curse. All that they said came true. For it is known that destiny itself comes from these all-powerful women. They impart glory and splendor, misery and poverty, a long life or an early death.
Here are two examples illustrating the overlapping roles of Norns, Wise Women and Valykyries:
The old Germanic tribes did not have priests or druids. But they had Wise Women, who appeared in white linen robes to their people and acted as seers in times of war and peace. The most famous of all was Velleda, who lived near the Rhine River. At a time of immense danger for the Roman army, she foretold the fall of the Roman Empire. Not only did the capital city burn, but huge campaigns were launched against the Romans.

The Acorn Stone
The Roman Field Marshal Drufus had penetrated Germany as far as the Elbe River. He stood thoughtfully on its banks, contemplating his next move, when a giant woman in white robe appeared to him. She was the most famous of all Germanic seers, who also appeared during battles and urged sons, husbands and lovers to fight honorably. She called to him “Where are you going Young Drufus, who cannot be satisfied? You want to have all of our lands, but fate does not will it! Flee! Flee! You stand at your life’s end!” Because of this apparition, Drufus retreated. He fell with his horse and broke his leg. Carried by his companions to Mainz, he died immediately. He was thus considered to be the founder of the City of Mainz. He was beloved by his legions. They therefore built a monument to honor his remains and it is called the Acorn Stone. It rises up from the ground and appears as a dark-gray, round, tower-like mass. The markings have long vanished, the height and shape of the stone have suffered many changes. Only the iron-hard core remains, which testifies to the human skill and artistry of the Romans.


Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
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